Truth of the Matter

This morning Lisa, Alison, and I unpacked our specimens and gear from the 4 x 4.  Back in the lab, we carefully uncovered our leaf fossils and sorted our amber bits into tiny vials.  We couldn’t help but feel a bit of sorrow… we split around two tons of shale over a three day period, yet turned up no fossil feathers at all.  Beautiful Cretaceous leaf fossils, yes, sparkly veins of “fool’s gold”, seed pods and amber, sure, but feathers, no.

Lisa with her prize
Lisa with her prize
Alison hard at work
Alison hard at work


Truth be told, we had expected to come back empty handed in this way but our hopes had kept us going.  After all, how could we embark on an expedition and not hope to find what we were looking for?

Its a good example of the common paleontological plight–days, weeks, even months of searching for ancient organisms sometimes turns up nothing but bloody feet, sore backs, and disappointed scientists.  Yet we just keep on trucking, because around every hillside, in between every layer of shale, and just up that gigantic cliffside, the next big discovery might be made.  Maybe we are just suckers for the adrenaline rush of a great fossil find, but thank goodness we are.  If we weren’t, who else would put up with it?

At the end of the expedition, the spoils pile sure piled up!  Wow, that is a lot of split shale.
At the end of the expedition, the spoils pile sure piled up! Wow, that is a lot of split shale.

This morning in the lab as we stabilized the multiple blocks of shale we collected bearing leaf fossils the discovery junkie hit me again… and I wondered… could there be feathers hiding inside the blocks we brought back?

Ah, the familiar rush…

Follow our research blog to learn more about the science of our Alabama fossils and stay tuned for the next expedition launching in June.


Trapped in Time

A while of cracking shales to no avail can be discouraging. Every now and then we will get a glimmer of hope, literally. The shales are chock full of amber. The bits are quite small, but we are collecting it so we can check for insects under the scopes back at the lab.


Ancient Connections

Some of the most jaw dropping fossil discoveries are those that give us a glimpse into the behavior of extinct organisms. While we don’t have Velociraptor and Protoceratops locked in combat here in Alabama, we do have evidence for a ferocious predator with a big appetite…. for leaves…

We’ve been finding some great examples of insect damage on our leaf fossils.